Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 88: Oscar and Felix

Thank goodness The Engineer is home so the insanity and complete mess that reign when I am in charge can be fixed.

My way.

His way.

Marriage 101, Lecture 117: Intimacy and security

SH and I have a pretty good relationship, even though we fight all the time about politics (we are, however, in agreement that this latest move by the Wisconsin legislators stinks to high heaven and that our local state representative and senator are GOING DOWN), but we haven't quite gotten to that seventh level of trust.

At Ridge winery in California last year. This looks better to me now than it did then because I got carsick on the drive up there. Fortunately, I happened to have a Dramamine in my purse, left over from when I was in Chile, when I got motion sickness on the buses all the time. Yes, it is a joy to travel with me. No, I don't know why I happened to have a drug from 13 years ago in my purse, because the purse certainly wasn't 13 years old, but I was quite relieved to find it.

We have merged finances: The money from the sale of my Memphis house, which was within $300 of being paid for (see: "I buy my jeans at Goodwill"), was the down payment for this one. His paycheck goes into my checking account, which pays my credit card, which is good, as I do not have a large income of my own now. I am the beneficiary on his insurance. I even know how much money he makes, which is a conversation I don't think we had until we had been dating for a good while, although of course I had sussed out that he was solvent and financially responsible early on in the relationship because I am Not An Idiot. Women who marry men who are deep in debt who have gambling problems and who won't get a job? Cry me a river, honey.

Anyhow. So we have married, we have had the money talk, but we still don't know each other's biggest secret: the passwords. Not only that, but Mr Logical Engineer, who does everything by the book, who won't send an email that hasn't been spellchecked and thinks using "2" for "two," "too," or "to" is a sign of the Apocalypse (not that I am a fan, myself), who just last night finally agreed to let me discard his car insurance bills from 2006 (yes, they have been paid) and who still has his stepdaughter's student loan payment receipts from 1997 (she has been out of college for how long now?) because WHAT IF WE NEED THEM SOMEDAY? Anyhow Mr Procedure Engineer uses ONE PASSWORD FOR EVERYTHING.

My friend Luke and I walked around San Francisco.

That's right.


One. Password.

For everything.

So when someone hacks into his hotmail account, the next logical step is USAA, where ten years of my hard-earned money is languishing in various investment accounts and his paycheck resides in our checking account. Then to his retirement account with his employer. And the whole house of cards will fall.

Someone will have to work a lot harder to break into my stuff because I have a gajillion passwords that not even I can remember. Good strategy, huh?

More SF.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday photos

What is the design flaw in this toilet at Border's? Anyone? Anyone? OK. Here it is. Why does a toilet at a bookstore need a lid? All that means is extra surface area to get dirty, and, more immediately, something I have to touch to get to the handle to flush. Ick.

Yeah. Right. Please consider giving me a discount for saving you money, you sanctimonious twits. If you really wanted to minimize your impact on the environment, you'd tell people not to buy books and to get them from the library instead. But then you wouldn't have a job, so I guess you don't care that much, do you?

Or, how about this, seeing as it is one of the two weeks where the grass here is not covered with snow? Go outside and get some free grass from the yard. Laverne eats yard grass all the time when she is outside. That is, when she is not whining about how horribly abused she is.

Marriage 101, Lecture 229: Going to the liquor store

Please note that we already have over 300 bottles of wine in our basement and a bunch of beer, not as much as the wine because I think age doesn't improve beer so much, and that after SH's plane crashes and the cats and all his unopened boxes go, the wine is next on the list. No, I don't care for wine. Yes, I understand that it enhances food. I don't care. I appreciate that some people appreciate it. I do not. I don't care about alcohol. Never have. If I am going to consume recreational calories, they are going to be in the form of butter or chocolate. I don't care if other people drink. I just don't want to.

What's wrong with ordinary beer? If it gets guys to do household chores, it's working, isn't it?

SH: What kind of beer are we supposed to get for Todd&Andrea's friend [who is fixing our bikes for free except for some beer]?

Me: Something about an hour or an hour and a half. [not really] His wife said 60 and 90, whatever the heck that means.

SH: Yeah, I know what that is.

Me: You would.

SH: Here it is: Dogfish [I think] IPA.

Then some beer guy walks up and he and SH start beer talk.

Beer guy: Have you tried the 120 minute?

SH: No. It's seven dollars a bottle.

BG: Well, it's 400% alcohol.

SH: Yeah, that's a lot.

BG: Look at this stuff: it's the latest blah blah blah in beer.

SH: Cool!

BG: Yeah, it's super hoppy. It's made by Luxembourgian monks who had got to first base once, then took a vow of celibacy. Now this beer is not so hoppy. It's more something something that the beer snobs love because it's super biodynamic because it's made from natural yeast out in the fields.

SH: Coolness.

BG: And this one? Made by Albanian virgins.

SH: Hmmm.

BG: Albino.

SH: Albino Albanians?

BG: Yep. With Asperger's.

SH: I want some.

Photo source:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chats du jour: Shirley in her self-imposed prison

She likes being inside boxes. The laundry basket is even better if it is knocked over. She just hadn't gotten there yet. Or maybe it's not a toy. Maybe this is Art. And this is a Found Object. And she is Performing. I am just not sophisticated enough to understand.



Peoples' Republic of Wauwatosa Part 774

My friend Todd the Fabulous Realtor who found us the great house told me this but I didn't believe him.

Remember how I said that it's illegal to park overnight on the public roads paid for by taxpayer money in our town?

Well, you can call the police to get permission to park on the taxpayer-funded roads.

Yes. That's right. You can get permission. To park on a public road.

But you have to call a 900 number. That costs $1.50 per call. And you have to call the number each time you want to park.

We are sooooo moving to Texas as soon as I can convince SH.


To add insult to injury, the finance committee of State of Wisconsin, which has been turning its pockets inside out, looking for money but finding only lint, stayed in session until 5:30 a.m. this morning because they couldn't meet today when people (ie, those of us who pay for all this stuff) might actually be watching because there was hello! a golf game, people! in Lake Geneva! which also happens to be a Democratic fundraiser not that I am pointing fingers or anything and passed measures finding $$$$ for a firing range, an opera house, and the basketball arena in Milwaukee, which I didn't realize was a taxpayer-funded operation because Lord knows pro ball couldn't make it without taxpayer help, proposed higher taxes on cigarettes and rich people, and had the great idea to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens because you know, that will improve public safety and all.

We are really moving to Texas. Hook 'em.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kill the rabbit, part 2

Laverne has been converted from a yard whiner to a potential killer of rabbits. After SH and I put up the rabbit fence yesterday, two rabbits came back to hang out and gripe about the injustice of being shut out of my garden with its fresh pea shoots emerging from the expensive (manure, peat moss, sand) dirt. Laverne crouched in the kitchen window watching them, her tail whipping back and forth as she made that funny clicking sounds cats make when they want to attack.

Laverne the Huntress waits for a rabbit to dare to move into her territory.

"Do you want to kill those rabbits?" I asked her, only she didn't understand because she doesn't speak English, being a Siamese and all. So I just pulled her out of the window and took her outside, which always makes her whine because she wants to be free! free of her bonds! But then if I let her go free, she is scared! oh this is so scary! it's all so big out here!

Laverne is quite conflicted. Perhaps she needs a cat psychiatrist.

She kept turning back to me and I had to keep turning her around and pointing her to the rabbits, who were pretty darn confident, considering they were in the presence of not one but two traditional rabbit predators, but maybe they have connections on the Wauwatosa City Council and know that cats aren't supposed to go around unlicensed and unleashed and that humans aren't allowed to shoot at them.

Shirley hunts produce.

Little do they know that I don't care about no steenkin' badges.

Finally, Laverne saw the rabbits and did what she was supposed to do, which was chase them. She took off running faster than I have ever seen her go. She disappeared around the corner of the garage. I ran after her, but didn't see her.

Oh great. She's three blocks gone now and SH is going to blame me for losing the cat, who was probably at this moment being eaten by the non-existent pit bulls that SH is sure are going to be the cause of death for our pets if they step one foot outside the door without a leash.

When Shirley is not hunting produce, which is MOST OF THE TIME, she is hanging out with her bud Death.

I walked back around to the front of the garage and called her. I heard her crying and there she was at the back door, begging to be let inside, clawing at the door, trying to open it. She was a little traumatized by her adventure (oh no! she was Out of My Sight!), but at least she had made the effort. I was very proud.

She ran right back to the window and darned if the rabbits didn't return. So I grabbed her and took her outside again and this time there was no crying. Instead, she jumped out of my arms and chased the rabbits right out of the yard, then sauntered back to me with her, "Oh yeah. I'm tough. I'm Da Bomb." swagger.

SH heard me cooing praise to Laverne and asked what on earth I was going to do if she actually caught one. "Throw it in the trash," I said. "I want our yard to get a reputation as a Yard of Death."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Just so you know, the $11.99, 100% guaran-damn-teed to keep the rabbits out of your garden or your money back spray does not work.

The Fence?






Marriage 101, Lecture 398: Oh, the places you'll go, or, My husband causes second-hand adrenalin

Friday. Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend.

The vision:

Me: What time do we need to leave here for the [IMAX about the Titanic that SH really wants to see but to which I am indifferent] movie?

SH: It starts at 5:40, so no later than 5:00.

Me: OK.

[Then SH showers right away, we leave the house at 5 for a calm drive downtown, take our time finding the perfect, FREE parking space, walk to the museum, find the perfect seats, and enjoy the movie.]

The reality:

5:00 SH showers

5:10 SH starts an email to a coworker in India.

5:17 We leave.

5:19 We encounter a slow driver on Center Avenue and can't pass him because there are either cars parked or the city bus is on our right. SH gets mad at the slow driver, cusses and pounds his fist. I take deep breaths and remind myself that I DO NOT CARE IF WE GET TO THE MOVIE ON TIME BECAUSE I DON'T CARE ABOUT STUPID TITANIC DOCUMENTARIES, but SH is a stress carrier and is highly, highly contagious sometimes.

5:21 We are still behind the slow driver. I look for medicinal chocolate in the glove box.

5:27 We escape the slow driver, but then get caught at a red light and IT'S ALL THE SLOW DRIVER'S FAULT.

5:33 Downtown at last. I make the mistake of asking The One-track Mind Engineer what he thinks about this bar in San Diego that wants its waitresses to wear makeup and can it fire the waitress who refuses and don't get an answer because he really and truly does not hear me when he is concentrating on something else, like trying to remember which street we turn on to get to the good parking for the museum.

5:35 We find an empty space. The rapacious City of Milwaukee thinks the best way to make money is to increase the parking rates to $1.50/hour and to change to those parking meters that don't let you see if there is time left on them. Let's see: capital investment of about a gajillion dollars for all new meters and the pay system that allows cash or credit cards (gotta admit I like the part that allows credit cards, but if you're only allowed to park two hours anyhow, it's not that big a deal) plus increased parking rates equals sure I'm going to come downtown more often and pay for street parking. We pay for parking until 5:59.

5:37 Run into the museum, wait in Will Call line to exchange passes for tickets, be delayed by people ahead of us who don't understand the concept of moving forward to exit and instead want to come out the way they went in even though the exit is very clearly marked at the end of the line. Get our tickets. Run back to the theater. Get waved in. Run into theater. Wait for eyes to adjust to dark. Find seats. That turn out to be kinda too low but I think the theater might be a retrofit and even if we had sat higher up, we might have had to tilt our necks way back. Watch movie and be relieved that we didn't actually pay $11 apiece for the tickets.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What I like about you

This is the kind of guest I like: the kind who really makes herself at home. We had Todd The Realtor and his wife Andrea over to supper last night.

First, I digress with the menu because I know you want to know.

Green salad with homemade (well, from a mix) ranch dressing and blue cheese.

Scalloped potatoes with a ton of cream and fresh asiago cheese omigosh so good.

Baked Vidalia onions with olive oil, salt and pepper ground from the fancy pepper grinder, so fancy that you still have to provide the power, which makes me wonder why on earth it cost $40 if it's not going to do some of the work for you, but we didn't pay for it. It was a birthday present from SH's parents, who finally sent him something he likes, but you can't blame them for sending him ugly shirts all these years because his mother has been asking him what he wants and he has never given her an answer and if someone asks and you don't say, you get an ugly shirt and it's your fault so quit whining.

Grilled porterhouse steaks with SH's mustard-pepper crust and a white wine cream sauce with fancy mushrooms that we got at the Madison farmers' market on Saturday when we went to see my cousin who is at the U-Wisconsin burn center for chemical burns he got from liquid ammonia two weeks ago. The moral of that story is if you see a middle-aged man running down the street yelling and pulling off his clothes at 8:17 p.m., he might not be a crazy man and maybe you should stop to see what is going on.

The rest of the potato chocolate cake I made last week for book club and whipped cream. You may have noticed there was a lot of cream on the menu and you would be correct. Sendik's had it on sale. They had pints and half pints for 50 cents each, which makes me wonder why anyone would buy the half pint when you could get an entire pint for the same price.

I bought four pints, thinking I could throw some of it in the freezer. Then Andrea told me that since she has switched to organic milk, she is breaking out a lot less, so now what do I do with all this cream? I will switch to organic if it means I don't have zits on my chin. I don't care about the politics of organic (OK, I do care, but in the other direction -- hello, pesticides have allowed us to feed the world with a lot less labor), but I do care about what my face looks like.

Anyhow. We ate and ate and it was fabulous and then we were cleaning up and Andrea did something that always endears a guest to me and that is that she just started to PUT THINGS AWAY and not only that but SHE PUT THEM WHERE THEY BELONGED, which means she GETS MY KITCHEN which means SHE GETS ME which means she is VERY SMART INDEED.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 449: Recycling, Lake Michigan water, and power

1. Plastic melts, probably at a higher temperature than the chocolate left from the chocolate-chip kringle.

2. Lake Michigan water is a more scarce resource than #5 plastic.

3. Washing the chocolate off a recyclable plastic container is a big, fat waste of water and time, even if somebody who shall not be named here does it while I am not watching.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rocket man

Here is SH after his first flying lesson last week. I gave him a few lessons as a Christmas gift a year and a half ago and he was finally able to go. Last year was too busy. This is our year to relax. Last year was our year to sell my house in Memphis, move me here, buy a house here, move into the house, have a wedding, host 11 family members, some of them houseguests, for almost two weeks, and take three trans-oceanic trips. Well, technically two trans-oceanic trips but three continents. Two continents and one island. Whatever. Lots of traveling. This year, we are staying at home and watching movies.


Anyhow. I have told SH that if his plane crashes, the first thing I am doing is getting rid of the cats. Then I am putting all the boxes in the basement into the trash. Those would be the boxes that he brought with him from California seven years ago and HAS NOT OPENED SINCE. I maintain that if you can go seven years without opening a box, you don't need what is in it. He maintains he might need what is in those boxes SOMEDAY. Right.

Like he needed the old physics homework from 1982 that we found when we opened boxes in his apartment last spring. Boxes that revealed that SH had been the head physics grader (that part was not a surprise) and the boss of my college boyfriend, Bobby, who was also a physics grader. I was going through the papers that I COULD NOT THROW AWAY WITHOUT SH'S APPROVAL and saw familiar non-SH handwriting. How odd, I thought. I know this writing. It looks like -- looks like -- Bobby W's writing.

I looked more closely at the list of test grades and at the bottom was a note and Bobby's signature. I would say small world, but SH and I did go to the same college and met at our 20-year reunion. He and my college boyfriend both majored in electrical engineering. There were only about 500 people in our class, so the odds that our paths would somehow cross like this in a box 26 years later are not that low.

What is odd is that someone would not only save all that stuff but would move it 1) from Houston to Austin, 2) from Austin to San Jose, and 3) from San Jose to Milwaukee. SH does not travel lightly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

That must be jelly because jam don't roll like that

Why am I the only one at Body Pump who doesn't have a smooth butt? Not just the flesh itself, mind you. I could never have a smooth butt. That's impossible. I like to eat way too much. This is Wisconsin. This is Milwaukee. Kopp's Never Enough Chocolate. Oscar's Brownie Smash. Cheese. Fried cheese curds. Carr Valley Mellage with sliced apples. Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona with pears. My uncle's summer sausage. His brats. Oh wow. I'm getting hungry. SH's steak on the grill. The spinach-artichoke dip samples at Sendik's. Honestly. You expect me not to eat those things?

No, I mean why isn't my butt smooth where my underwear elastic is? Is my underwear too tight? It doesn't hurt. Isn't that how you decide your underwear is too tight? If it causes pain? If I got a larger size, they would fall down. That's how I know mine fit.

I do have some underwear with really wide lace bands, but that's my Nice Underwear and who wears Nice Underwear to the gym first thing in the morning before showering? This is the Nice Underwear I got on sale at Target and still paid more than I usually pay (not the Hot Bottoms from TJMaxx, which I like but which are starting to show their age and in any case, have a narrow elastic band that cuts into my buns of butter not steel anyhow) and that I save for days that SH is home and might see them. (Although he really likes the Hot Bottoms, so maybe I'm wasting the Nice Underwear?)

I have lamented my lined, depressed (in the physical sense) gym butt before. My friend Leigh, in solidarity, sent me some Calvin Klein elastic-less underpants that she swore would not leave lines. Leigh has no fat on her body except where it is supposed to be, so on her, I imagine there would be no lines from anything, even Hot Bottoms. But when I tried the undoubtedly expensive (although Leigh and I are kindred spirits, so she probably got these at TJMaxx -- smart girl! -- let the rest of the world pay retail!) Calvins, I had a line. Scientists will study my butt when I am dead.

Here's what I want to know: What is it that all the other women in my class know that I do not? Is it something as simple as they are willing to wear their Nice Underwear to the gym and I am not? Or is there more? What is the Big Underwear Secret that I, at 45, have not learned?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chats du jour: Please sir buy my matches, or, Early vegetarians returning from the kill

Proof that we are starving our poor abused cats:

Note the tooth marks. Shirley is indeed turning into a hunter. I was hoping she would go after rabbits, though, not produce.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Just desserts

Part 1
The food at book club was fabulous (Junior League secret onion dip, zucchini-cheddar bread, my grandmother's potato-chocolate cake* don't laugh it's fabulous) and would have been even better if people had gotten to my house on time.

They weren't late because we are in the South and being a few minutes late is the polite thing to do. No, in the Midwest, 7:00 means 6:57, missy. This is Wisconsin. People here get up early.

It looks like we're not going to England this summer after all. SH's boss has to go, so he is going to do the training session SH was going to run. Oh well. That means we won't be making a trip to this mill in Lower Slaughter where we had the fabulous brown bread ice cream that SH still regrets not getting more of even though he wasn't hungry.

They were late because I "My greatest weakness is that I am not a detail person so I always make sure to double and triple check details and to have detail people on my team" wrote down my address as 2426 Oak instead of 2446 Oak at my first book club meeting. And then didn't bother to read the not one but TWO emails Karen sent announcing the meeting location.

Part 2
Last November, I sent my sunglasses to Ray Ban for repair. I waited my six to eight weeks to get my glasses back and nothing. I emailed twice and didn't get a satisfactory answer. ("Call us at this number during business hours!" Why bother to have an email if all they are going to tell you is to call?) I called, waited forever, etc etc.

I finally sent a polite but very pointed email asking them what the heck was going on up there, why I had a case number but my credit card hadn't been charged for the repairs, how my glasses could sit there for two months with no action being taken.

The supervisor called me and I was quite firm with her, which is not my way, because I am tough when I am writing but a total wimp in person. In this case, though, I thought I was on solid ground. Look at the facts! They had Completely Screwed Up!

Maybe he is fishing for eels? Or would that be eeling?

And then she said, "But Ms Factotum, we sent you a letter on November 27."

"Well, I never got it."

"We sent it."

"Oh yeah? Prove it."

"We sent it to 2246 Oak."

"Well, that's not even my address!"


"But it's the address on the letter you sent us."

Long pause as I look up my original letter.

"Oh. Well. Never mind."

Part 3
It's bad enough to make a dumb mistake once. It's really bad to make it twice. It's even worse to make it twice and to make different versions of it. Can't I even be consistent in my idiocy here? 2246 and 2426 Oak. Good grief. At least I didn't have our tax refund sent there.

* The cake would have been even better if I had been able to add the one cup of grated almonds called for in the recipe, but no, those were unavailable. I had prepared them and put them in a dish on top of the stove. We have one of those horrible smooth stovetops that I hate, hate, hate and will be replaced with a gas stove After Alimony. It is good for nothing but extra storage space.

I thought it was cat safe because Shirley jumped up there once while the surface was still hot and jumped down again real quick. But apparently, she is incapable of universalizing an experience ("Oh no! Stove = hot = pain!" is beyond her, although she can figure out how to break into the laundry room not one but three ways), so while I was out with SH Sunday evening on a forced march down by the river and to Noodles and Co., Shirley jumped onto the stovetop and knocked the almonds down to the floor. Yes, she meant to do it. She could find food in Gandhi's kitchen.

Then she and Laverne had themselves a little almond feast.

Then they came to bed with us.

Then they threw up. Not on the bed, but still. Cat vomit. Ick.

Which would have been bad, but which was made worse by the fact that Shirley had already thrown up twice that afternoon after jumping on the island to steal my freshly-made baba ganoush. She is fast -- she did it in the fifteen seconds that I left the kitchen to get something from the bathroom. She scarfed it down so fast that she threw up two separate batches of about two tablespoons each, which, if a human did in proportion to his stomach size, would be like a gallon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Maybe there is hope for Wisconsin yet



Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

Eric Holder on waterboarding, via (thanks to Maggie's Farm):

Lungren: So if the intent was to solicit information but not do permanent harm, how is that torture?

Holder: Well, it… uh… it… one has to look at... ah… it comes out to question of fact as one is determining the intention of the person who is administering the waterboarding. When the Communist Chinese did it, when the Japanese did it, when they did it in the Spanish Inquisition we knew then that was not a training exercise they were engaging in.

Torquemada: Team, we're just not getting the results we need. The Boss is not happy. Look at these charts! Confessions are way down! 14% in January alone. I am not happy, not happy at all. We need to change how we are doing things.

Gomez: What about if we try waterboarding?

Torquemada: Gomez, you're an idiot. You think pretending to drown someone who has had his arms and legs dislocated will work?

Sanchez: What if we pulled the rack tighter?

Torquemada: Been there, done that, broken the ropes. Give me something else.

Ximenez: We could use -- soft cushions. And The Comfy Chair.

Torquemada: At last! Yes! That's brilliant! Anyone for a cafecito?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Chats du jour: Unfit cat owners

I put the cats out in the yard this morning with their leash and harness attached to the clothesline. As SH and I frolicked in the kitchen with our sausage and eggs and coffee and booze and meth while our cats starved and tried to eat grass, we laughed ha ha ha we get to eat and be warm and you don't.

Then SH said Oh look! Shirley is climbing the tree! I said, She's never done that before. Cool. It will wear down her sharp, sharp, destructive claws that we have to fight to cut because she won't scratch on designated cat-scratching items but wants to scratch things like bedspreads and humidors. Maybe she's really becoming a hunter now! We just need to be careful that her line doesn't get tangled in the branches.

And then I said Oh look she's jumping out of the tree Omigosh she just jumped out of the tree Holy crap she just jumped and now she's hanging there from the line She's going to strangle Holy crap and I ran outside while SH said Don't worry it's a harness she won't strangle but he was running right after me and Shirley was dangling from the tree because I guess she forgot she was on a leash. Sometimes she's smart, sometimes not so much.

We got her down from the tree and brought her inside and gave her treats, including cheese, which I had to remind SH makes her throw up, and treated her like a big baby, and argued about whether this means that we should keep her on a shorter line or take her off the line altogether and let her roam freely*, which SH is sure means she will be killed by pit bulls, even though I have yet to see anything other than an arthritic old Lab in our neighborhood.

Related cat story from today:

SH: What was that stuff in front of the refrigerator this morning?

Me: That hair fluff stuff?

SH: Yeah. I saw it when I put the cats in the basement at 5:00 a.m.

Me: It was just a bunch of cat hair. I thought it might be one of their mice, but when I looked more closely, it was just hair. It must have blown out from under the fridge. I put it in the trash.

SH: Oh. I thought it might be cat vomit.

Me: You thought it was vomit and you just left it there?

SH: It was five in the morning. It would have still been there later.**

* Which of course is illegal in our town, because Wisconsin is like number gajillion in personal freedoms in this country, even if we have a cat license, which we don't and have no intention of getting.

** "Later" as in when I got up because I always get up first.

Friday, May 15, 2009

In the bag

Do you guys have to fight with the bag boy (I should say, "Bag senior citizen," which actually makes it worse, because this guy was old enough to know better) over how your groceries are packed? I use cloth bags. I have used them for years, way before they were fashionable. Not because I care about The Environment but because they are easier to carry and you can pack a lot of stuff in them. I also like not having a bunch of plastic bags under my sink. My husband, the big Liberal Environmentalist It's The Right Thing To Do Guy, does not mind having plastic bags under the sink. What if we need them some day? And yet he is the Noble One Who Cares.

Anyhow. I use the cloth bags but get no credit for it because I'm not doing it for the right reason. I don't think the person who drives the car with the bumper sticker that says, "Plastic bags blow" (and then some other stuff in small print underneath that I didn't bother to read because who can read when she is rolling her eyes?) would give me credit for using cloth bags because I Don't Care. Honestly. Who is into plastic bags enough that she puts a bumper sticker about it on her car? And if she cares that much, why isn't she riding a bike?

Back to the grocery store. When I put my groceries on the belt, I place them in the order I want them packed. I would prefer to pack them myself because I know how I want it done and the bag boy usually does it wrong, but whaddyagonnado? So I usually settle for kibbutzing. But how hard is it to PUT THE NINE-POUND GALLON OF MILK in before the corn chips, the chocolate chip kringle and the two half-pint containers of cream? Isn't it obvious that the biggest, heaviest item should go in first? Even if I hadn't put the milk at the head of the line, shouldn't the bag man have figured that out?

But instead of packing that first, he pushed it away and put the cream in the bag.

And then the fragile lemon bar I got for SH from the bakery -- in one of those #5 plastic containers that probably would not do well to be crushed by the four-pound bag of sugar. Then he put in the four ears of corn.

That's when I couldn't take it any more and pushed the milk to him. "This will fit in the bag." I mean really. What was his plan? To put the milk in last? To put it in its own bag while the cloth bag remained more than half empty? Do I look so fragile and dainty that I cannot carry kringle, corn, cream, sugar, a lemon bar, chips AND milk with one hand?

Uh. No. I really do not. I come from farm stock, people. I positively do not look fragile. May I remind you that I have just dug up a 12' x 19' patch of yard and prepared it for a garden (as in, mixing in six bags of manure, two bags of peat moss, and two bags of sand) with nothing more than a shovel and a hoe that barely worked?

Do they not think I can carry my own groceries? Good grief.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 288: They say it's your birthday, or, The boy who cried "Bee!", part 2

So SH was horrified at the idea of a cake at work. Work is work and not work is not work and never the twain shall meet, to the extent that it's like pulling teeth to get him to tell me about the customer who is going through the male to female sex-change operation. "What's s/he wear? Does s/he wear makeup? Jewelry? What kind of shoes? High heels? What's his/her hairstyle?" This is fascinating stuff and I want to know and all SH can remember is that they had this design issue on the chip. Next time, take notes, I tell him, and watch to see which bathroom s/he uses.

Clarksdale, Mississippi, where Robert Johnson went to the crossroads.

I don't know if this not wanting the cake at work and not wanting a personal event to be public is a male/female thing or if it is just SH's personality. I took a cake to Juanderlust's, the artist formerly known as Harpo, work, and he seemed to be pleased. I think women like to get flowers at work or at least in front of their friends because much of the pleasure of getting flowers is that other people know you got flowers.

Speaking of.

One of the best personal events made public I ever saw was when this guy proposed to his girlfriend at Jazzercise. It was during the transition from the dance section to the floor exercises and the instructor gave the microphone to a guy who had been standing in the wings. He was holding a rose and started talking about how if you saw this flower lying on the sidewalk you might not think much of it but if you picked it up you would realize it was perfect, blah blah blah.


I couldn't figure out what was going on, then saw that the woman behind me, "Madison,"* was sobbing. She was always kind of bitchy** to me at Saturday breakfast when the group would go out after class***, so I thought, Yeah, if I saw you on the sidewalk, I wouldn't think you were special, even if I did pick you up.

But it was the perfect proposal: it was memorable and it was in front of all of Madison's friends, so not only would she get to tell them about it, they would get to tell her about it from their point of view. It was a completely shared experience that would grow into myth over time.


She's probably divorced now.

But it was a great proposal.

I think there were 20 Baptist churches in Clarksdale and one Catholic church.

* I hate that name.

** And she was dumb. She was a labor and delivery nurse. She was in her early 30s. Said she was going to wait until her 40s to have kids. I told her she might want to re-think that -- that fertility plummets after the 30s. Oh no, she said. She saw women in their 40s having babies all the time. I said she saw the ones who actually got pregnant, not the ones who didn't. She didn't get it.

*** I was working in Cedar Rapids for a few months and had made friends with a woman, Beth, in the class. She had invited me to the Saturday breakfast and Madison thought I was an interloper trying to steal Beth from her. I wasn't stealing. Beth liked me better. Besides, it's not like eating biscuits and egg-white omelettes and the Hy-Vee in Cedar Rapids is such an exclusive event.

In it to win it

Book club (neighborhood, not church) is chez nous this week, which means cleaning the living room for the first time in months. We kept it closed off this winter because we live in a drafty, old, money flees out of the windows house and didn't see the point in heating more space than we had to. I would say that now that it is getting nice that it is time open the living room, but Laverne's desire to scratch on nothing but the newly reupholstered wing chair keeps that from being an option.

Well, I suppose it is still an option sans Laverne. What is not an option is keeping the living room door open all the time, along with the living room windows, and having a breeze flow through the house.

Southern cooking makes you good looking
Maybe I should serve all southern foods: biscuits, collards, sweet potato casserole.

Those of you who live in Wisconsin or know Wisconsin are falling off your chairs laughing at that very idea while the rest of you are scratching your heads.

Well, anyway. So I had to clean the living room, which had accumulated a lot of dirt for a place that had seen no human or cat habitation for the past few months. Mostly dust bunnies and roly-polys, which would be invisible to me without my glasses and I am OK with that* but if I were at your house, I would totally be looking for dirt and judging** and don't tell me you wouldn't be doing the same at my house because that is just how women are.

But I have never learned to make fried chicken.

Yes. We are totally competitive. Don't try to deny it, even you East Coast we're so intellectual that we're not going to wear makeup and shave our legs types. Please. You just play on a different field.

I was in the Junior League. I know how the game goes. Any time there is a group of women, it is about a group of women, which means it is a competition. JL was not about volunteering. If it were about volunteering, nobody would be paying almost $200 a year*** to belong and going to those stupid boring meetings and volunteering at crummy places like the Salvation Army babysitting kids who pooped in their pants and didn't have diapers and whose mother, pulled out of a parenting class, got mad at the poor kid and yanked her arm really hard even though it was the mother's fault for not putting the kid in diapers when she was only 16 months old. If all you wanted to do was volunteer, you could sign up at church to do something easy and fun without worrying about wearing the right shoes, clothes and makeup.

I never went to this place when I lived in Memphis.

Nope. When you join a service organization, there is always more to the story. I was on my neighborhood association board in Memphis and I did it to show off. I know. You're shocked. But I have to tell you, it felt good to sell 50% more ad revenue for the home tour than had ever been sold before. And to collect it! The only place I didn't collect from was the photo studio where the owner was being investigated by the Treasury Dept for making fake passports. I even got the money from the restaurant where the owner kept telling me the check was in the mail and it wasn't so I finally went there and stood at the cash register until the manager called the owner and got me the money. Don't mess with me.

The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Group that Leigh, Megan and I started in Memphis?

We started it to meet men. Not as a service organization. We had already done our service. Just to meet men. And it worked. That's how Megan met her husband.

Book club. It's all about books, right? Well, yes. I do love to read and I like to talk about what I read. But I want to make friends. And I like to entertain. And I like to show off. So sue me. But when you come to my house, you will eat well. So I don't think anyone will complain.

I do, however, make a mean pecan-bourbon pie. Full disclosure: SH, the detail guy, placed those perfect pecans.

* That is one of the main reasons I don't wear my glasses most of the time, the other being I don't really need to see the wrinkles on my face. Or the zits. No, I don't know why anyone should have wrinkles and zits at the same time. It makes me doubt the existence of God.

** I wouldn't judge messy or dusty as much as I would judge a dirty bathroom. That's just gross.

*** I would have dropped out after the first year except a friend of mine really wanted to join, so I stayed in to sponsor her. I have lost track of her. She went through some rough times and got divorced. I think she might have had an affair. She had asked me once if I would lie for someone who was having an affair, as in, would I cover for a friend, telling me that a friend of hers had asked her to do that. I told her I would not. Now I think she might have been feeling me out to see if I would do it for her.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sixteen tons

You parents out there, what is in those big backpacks I see the second-graders toting as they trudge their way to school past my house every morning? This being Wisconsin, it could be beer and cigarettes. If so, wouldn't it be better to have beer vending machines at the school so our children would not develop back problems?

It won't be cigarettes for long because no more smoking in public places, public being defined as any place a person (Party A) might go voluntarily, even if that place is owned by a private person (Party B )and Party B might charge Party A for beer or food or what have you and not even put a gun to Party A's head for the money. The gun, by the way, is perfectly legal because it is, after all, Party B's property and Wisconsin has just joined the rest of the world and realized that open carry is indeed constitutional and we really don't need to worry about licensed, law-abiding people carrying guns.

But not Party B's property for the purposes of deciding whether there should be cigarettes. Just guns. Because guns don't kill people. Just cigarettes.*

I never carried a backpack to school, not until I was a senior in college and lived off campus. Of course, I was too weak as a second grader from smoking to carry anything.

I digress. Just what is in those backpacks? Second graders don't have homework, do they? Even if they did, wouldn't it just be a few worksheets? What on earth could weigh a kid down that much?

My other question of the day has nothing to do with the first but I still want to know: Why is the honey (a sweetening agent) with the peanut butter and not with either the sugar or the maple syrup at Sendik's? Who creates this taxonomy? Do you know how long I looked for honey today? And no, it is not on the not very helpful list they post at the end of each aisle, although the list did tell me where the Cool Whip is, which would have been useful last week when I needed it for the book club dessert.

* Do not twist those words to mean that I think guns should be banned as well. Just the opposite. As a matter of fact, I am for concealed carry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 288: They say it's your birthday, or, The boy who cried "Bee!"

Tomorrow is SH's birthday. He is in California all week for some training thingy. I didn't want him to spend his birthday with a bunch of engineers and no cake, so I thought about arranging one (dark chocolate no fruit especially not strawberries or raspberries) for him while he was there. I wasn't sure if he would like that, though, so I emailed two of his best friends to ask for their input.

This is where we spent SH's birthday last year.

Both said no, which confirmed my deep, dark suspicion, which is that SH does not really like to be the center of attention unless he is in a place where there is beer and cigarette smoke, which of course is impossible in California.*

So I am left with just the card I slipped into his suitcase, which tells him I would totally throw myself on a bee for him. If journalspace hadn't blown it and lost four years of blogging (and not even refunded my premium fee), I could have linked to the post that explains why this is funny and then we could all have a good laugh.

Ah, New Orleans.

Or I could re-post from my archives.

Oh come on. You didn't think I hadn't backed it all up, did you? Yeah, journalspace lost everything, but I didn't. It's just a pain to get to.

You know, heat and humidity don't seem so bad when you compare them to ice, snow and wind chill.

So here's the story, with my edits added.

Seven at one blow

posted 06/24/06

SH is on a mission. He has discovered some sort of wasp in my basement and he is determined to eradicate them. Me, I believe in peaceful co-existence with all of God’s creatures, so I just ignore the creatures that buzz around when I do laundry. I leave them alone, they leave me alone. We have a MAD policy. It works for us.

But SH, the liberal “we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq,” no, he’s ready to go to war. Go figure. He goes into the basement yesterday to turn off the water in preparation for replacing some – stuff – in my shower. I’m sure there’s a technical word for it but I don’t know it. It’s the thingy to make my shower stop leaking. I’m very grateful to him. But when he got down there, the buzzy bugs were awake for the summer and he was startled.

[there was a photo here that I no longer have of two dead mud daubers]
He stunned these two, then dropped them into the bleach water where I was soaking a scrub brush to kill them. He didn’t want to smash them beyond recognition because they wouldn’t be good samples. SH is a good scientist.

I promised I wouldn’t write about his reaction, especially as he is a ferocious cockroach killer and washing-machine repairer and auto-battery replacer. He is an excellent boyfriend with more good points than I can count. So I won’t.

I like all the color there.

May 12, 2009
But now the truth can be told. We are married and it's time to let it all hang out. What really happened on those stairs? I was in the front of the house minding my own business when I heard a horrible blood-curdling scream, as if a little girl had fallen down the basement stairs.

I ran to the kitchen, sure SH would be lying on the basement floor with his broken femur poking through his thigh. It would be OK, though, because I know how to make a tourniquet**, even if I don't know how to spell it. Thank goodness for spellcheck.

But no.

Nothing that bad. Nothing that bad at all.

He wasn't injured.

He wasn't in danger.

He was -- startled.

By mud daubers. Which are bugs that look like wasps but 1) do not sting and 2) stay a good 18" away from humans because They Are More Scared Of Us Than We Are Of Them.

By mud daubers which he thought were wasps which happen to be something he is scared of.

This was where I first began to learn I was in love with a Drama King. A Drama King who reacts strongly to the slightest provocation. His reactions cause chain reactions. That is, he will make a noise that makes my adrenaline release, even though the event is not adrenaline worthy. Indeed, he has released no adrenaline. He is just fine. He is calm. His drama threshold is so high that he doesn't even realize that he has said "OH! NOOOOO!" for something like "I just dropped a pencil! on the FLOOR!" Whereas an "OH NOOOOO!" in my family was reserved for things like, "OH NOOOO The toilet just overflowed and it hadn't even been flushed and the plunger is in the other bathroom!"

Back to the original post, June 24, 2006
But buzzy wasp-like things are “not his favorite,” shall we say.

When he returned from the hardware store, he had major chemicals.

BBQ oysters.

Again, these bugs have never bothered me. I just shoosh them away and go on about my bidness.

Today, he is determined to find their source and kill them dead. They say a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. I think he has reached his defining moment. (At last!!!! I am so happy! Of course, one of the very – and many – good things about SH is that he is an engineer and can be convinced with data. The discovery of the WMDs this week gave him pause and he is definitely on board about Cuba now and thinks the Castro-lovers in the Democratic party are jerks and morons. So this wasp thing might be just what we needed to make him understand that sometimes, diplomacy doesn’t work and you have to resort to bombing the heck out of the enemy, especially when your enemy lives only to harm.)

He has spent the past hour chasing them down, trying to get a sample so he can match one to what he has found on the net. He wants to find the best way to kill them, you see.

At first, he thought they were regular wasps. Then he thought they were wood-boring wasps, which led to the obvious joke that they corner you at a party and talk your ear off about wood. Then he decided they were spider eating wasps. Now he thinks they might be mud daubers. None of the latter are human-stinging wasps.


I think he might be a little bit disappointed if they turn out to be harmless and he doesn’t get to destroy them. We talked this morning about how we played as children. We both liked to build things with blocks – and then knock them down.

Human nature is funny that way.


* Apparently, fat-laden meat is also not allowed there now, either, if the guy at Usinger's today is any indication. We were both loading up at the sausage bargain counter. Me, because I just love meat and he because he can't get this stuff in California. "Illegal," he said. "Too much fat." Don't laugh. First, they came for your cigarettes. Then, they came for your Coca-Cola. Next, they'll come for your steaks.

** And I even know I shouldn't make one except as a last resort if we were out in the wild and he was about to bleed to death. MeanMommyDoc, I would have called 911 and NOT MOVED HIM.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy as a pig in mud

SH is a car guy. A car, plane, train and ship guy. He reads voraciously, as I do, but when he reads, he reads about cars and planes and ships.* He also reads about sports. And science. And business. And finance. I sometimes wonder if he is a tiny tiny bit Asperger's. I can ask him a sports question or a car question and he will rattle off data that is so detailed that I drown in his words. Basically, if you ask him what time it is about a car, he will tell you how to build a Ford plant. He knows his stuff.**

And even more New Orleans photos from our trip last year. I could have linked to my posts about the trip except they are lost to us forever because of journalspace's crash and the disappearance of four years' worth of blogging but I'm not bitter about it. Oh not at all.

For example, the earpiece on my mp3 player broke last week, so I used new ones today. I could barely hear, which meant I had to do step aerobics to the awful step aerobics music rather than hear the discussion about how much a contractor had bid to paint the city's fire hydrants ($549 each).

When I got home, I told SH that part of the amplification function for the player must be in the earbuds and these didn't work so well and how could I adjust the volume, blah blah blah and he said no, it wasn't that and I said then how come I couldn't hear as well and he said that different earbuds amplify differently (or something like that) and I said that's what I just said and he said no, that's not what you said, and then he gave some technical engineering explanation that was basically "some earbuds are louder than others" but I just wanted the English major explanation of "how can I hear Charlie Sykes while I do step aerobics?"

Waiters at Cafe' du Monde hanging out while SH and I waited and waited for someone to bus our table and take our order. I finally bussed it myself and went to the window and ordered beignets and cafe' au lait. Perhaps they no longer work for tips there.

My point is, he loves the arcane detailed stuff and I just want to make things work and I don't care how they work, so I am not very gratifying for his ego sometimes because I don't want him to show me all that cool engine stuff and I'm not that impressed with new car wheels and I don't want the long explanations.

That's why he was so happy yesterday when the doorbell rang and it was a total stranger, some guy from down the street, who had noticed that we have the same kind of car he does -- a Passat -- and who needed to know something about the car and did SH know? Actually, he needed to borrow the wheel lock key***, but it turned out that the keys are not universal, even for red cars, so SH got to show the guy where the key is stored and he got to give advice to a stranger, which put him in a very good mood for the rest of the day.

Jackson Square at night.

* I read about food. I also read novels.

** Usually, that's good. It means I don't have to know things. I outsource to him.

*** Something to do with snow tires?

Somewhere in the Quarter.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Marriage 101, Lecture 218: Communication

Me: OK, Mom. Yeah, any time in June would be great. I know SH has a friend coming to visit for Summerfest, but they haven't set a date yet as far as I know.

SH: [nothing]

Me: Let me check the calendar. Nope. We don't have any houseguests for June. So any time you want to come would be fine. We'd love to have you.

More New Orleans.

SH: [nothing]

Me: OK. Love you. Bye.

SH: As long as she doesn't come after June 26th.

Me: Why didn't you say something while I was on the phone?

New Orleans.

SH: I thought you knew.

Me: You just heard me talking to my mom. You heard me mention two separate times that June was wide open. You did not hear me say, "Any time in June except after the 26th."

SH: But I told you that Tom might be coming any time after June 26th.

Me: I can email my mom. That's not the issue. Why didn't you just say something while I was talking to her just now?

SH: Because I thought you knew.


Shoeshine guy on Jackson Square.

Not that I'm competitive or anything

I went to the Lutheran book club meeting/potuck (not to be confused with the neighborhood ladies book club) the other night and the food was really good, although what's up with Lutherans that there is almost never any chocolate at their shindigs? I asked my friend Rob about that last night. He should know -- he's Swedish and therefore should be to the bone Lutheran, right?

New Orleans
More New Orleans photos from our trip last year. It was warm there. It's not warm here today. I wish it were warm here today.

But he claimed to be Methodist, maybe from his mother's English side, but then wondered the same thing, thinking don't Lutherans suffer enough already with lutefisk? Perhaps chocolate is too indulgent, too Catholic. Lutherans are austere, you know. None of this popery. They get straight to the point. They don't sing their prayers, they don't hold hands during the Our Father, they are efficient. In and out. That's a Lutheran service.*

Anyhow, I took a variation of this recipe, of which three versions can be found in my grandma's Catholic church cookbook, to the book club potluck because I wanted to be sure there was some chocolate dessert and sure enough, mine was the only chocolate and the only gooey dessert. I had thought everyone would roll their eyes and groan (in their minds of course: Lutherans would never be rude to your face), "Oh for pity's sake** it's that same old thing again," but nobody had ever had it before. Nobody! They all asked me what it was and I was all, "But this is Wisconsin! This is the total cliche' church potluck dessert! What do you mean you don't know what this is?"

Looking on Jackson Square from the museum.

And they were all, "Yah for sure this sure is good."

Which it was. And I knew they weren't just saying that to be nice, because people really don't do that much around here. They just ate almost all of it. More of it than they ate of the other desserts, which were good -- rhubarb bars***, cherry cheesecake, and two kinds of coffeecake -- but just not as good as mine.

Somewhere in the Quarter.

* I like Lutheran services. So sue me. And yes, I see the contradiction in the austerity/efficiency thing. There is no suffering in a quick service with minimal music, especially if that music is not Marty Haugen/Gather Hymnal music.

** "Oh for pity's sake" is the northern version of "Lord have mercy."

*** It is illegal to have a Lutheran or Catholic event in the spring or summer without a rhubarb dessert.

Working girls on Bourbon Street.